MO has a right to tell his story

Published: Thursday, 05 September 2019

What a strange world we live in. I thought I’d mention that in case you hadn’t noticed!!

Mo has stirred a few things up with his book hasn’t he? Michael Owen that is.

My initial reaction to Day 1 of his autobiography ‘Reboot’ was ‘why?’ On reflection I decided ‘why not?’

He’s spent a decade being pilloried for his ‘disloyalty’ to Newcastle - for his refusal to throw his lot in with Alan Shearer’s attempts to keep the Geordies in the PL during Shearer’s ill-feted time in charge at St James’.

I’ve regarded Alan as a mate for a long time now. I’ve defended him stoutly - not least against my governors at Sky who wanted to stop using him when he worked for us -because he was ‘dull’. As a player - I argued - he had to be careful and couldn’t go round battering everybody. I’m proud to say those that supported him won the argument and he’s gone on to become a very good observer of football. I still hate the description ‘pundit’.

So naturally I’ve tended to side with him when arguments have raged on boozy nights - and never more so than on gloriously warm evenings in Qatar. I’ve never really known Michael.

We loved winding Alan up when Michael burst onto the England scene - in the same circumstances that he describes Wayne Rooney did when he was a senior pro! Alan hated Michael stealing ‘his’ headlines. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s happened all through the generations.

It also happens in our business. As journalists we’re always looking to steal a march on the opposition - who’re probably employing our ‘mate’. We all enjoy getting one over in the opposition. That explains why The Mail have hammered Michael this week - because they didn’t get the serialisation rights. But they’ve loved every minute of being able to hunt about for a line to discredit Michael. It’s always been that way. I had it. I worked for Murdoch - so when they time came to get stuck in on me and Andy - the whole Press world went after us. Because they were looking to tuck us up - so did the Murdoch Press. That’s when you know you’ve got no chance!

Only one person was to blame for Alan failing at Newcastle - and that’s Alan. (Iain Dowie’s didn’t help - but Alan bizarrely appointed him) And he knows it. I too have heard all the stories about Michael not being prepared to put his body on the line at the end of that season. We all have. But ask yourself - would you? Aside from the fact that Michael was injured - he had no contract offer. Imagine if he’d picked up another one like the injury that he got playing for England during his time at Newcastle. What then?

So Michael is right to put the record straight and we should allow him the courtesy of doing so.

Alan also knows that at one stage he was on his way to Liverpool. Just like Steven Gerrard was joining Chelsea at one time. This nonsense about loyalty makes me laugh.

‘Loyalty’ is generally for bang ordinary players that won’t ever get a chance to move - or for those that have got everything they want - a salary that rewards their talent and medals. Alan once told me ‘medals don’t buy shoppin’’. Well I can’t imagine Ryan Giggs has ever struggled to fill his shopping basket!

I had murders with a gobby modern day analyst when I backed Raheem Sterling’s decision to leave Liverpool. I was right. He went to mix with better players and has become one of the top 5 in the world. Never mind ‘we gave him his chance’. It’s the same with Bobby Duncan. Good luck to the lad. If he’s prepared to back his own ability - let him go. We didn’t notice Jadon Sancho slip out of the back door - but what a good decision he made to go and play in Germany.

It’s a ridiculous old fashioned argument that these lads should ‘keep their feet’ on the ground - ‘serve time’ and earn buttons. Nonsense. In any walk of life you want as much as you can get for your work. Why not?

It won’t be long before we see the first £1m/week footballer. Again - why not? American owners know the value of talent. Look at the money they pay NFL stars. No-one complains when Rod Stewart pulls in a £1m for a concert. Or when Lewis Hamilton earns £1m every time he parks his backside in an F1 car. It’s coming - wether Les Reed likes it or not. No Les - the reason the U21’a failed recently was largely because you and Aidy Boothroyd got it wrong.

I didn’t think I’d ever find myself agreeing with much that Roy Keane has to say - but he too has a right to his opinion. He’s been pilloried for suggesting that Alex Ferguson isn’t a nice man and that he could’ve done more to protect him towards the end of his career at Old Trafford. Agreed Roy - Fergie is an acquired taste - but he also happens to be the most successful manager the game has ever known. That wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t made decisions for ‘himself’. I’m sure I could find a dozen or so footballers that would say the same thing about you. When you’re at the top of the pyramid you have to be selfish - but you’d also better be good to justify being so.

Perhaps that’s why things didn’t work

out for Shearer at Newcastle. I’ve told the story before of Ray Wilkins telling me he’d ‘suffocate’ those lads at the time. Ray saw it early. Ray was right. Alan’s reputation didn’t inspire them - it frightened them.

It’s a great shame that Shearer wasn’t afforded the chance to put things right the following season. I don’t know why he wasn’t, but I’ll guess it was something to do with money. I remember telling Alan at the time ‘tell Ashley you’ll do it for nothing - you’ve had enough money out of the club down the years. Tell him to reward you at the end of the season’. My thinking was that Alan could so something that nobody else had ever done and make himself a real hero. Show some loyalty. Oh no - wait a minute......